Drop C Tuning – What Is It and How to Tune a Guitar to Drop C

You can play power chords on the guitar with just one finger if you tune it to Drop C. This tuning system is used in rock and heavy metal music. Drop C tuning – what is it and how to tune a guitar to Drop C?

Drop C tuning is another way of tuning your guitar. In this tuning method, you need to have at least one of the strings lowered to a C. Tuning your guitar to drop C is not bad for your guitar. But if you want to maintain this tuning, you need to use heavier strings. You also need to adjust the setting of your trust rod.

When you tune your guitar to Drop C, you are tuning it to D standard instead of tuning the strings from lowest to highest (E-A-G-D-B-E). Tuning it to Drop C won’t ruin your guitar. But since you will be adjusting the truss rod, it will depend on the reaction of the guitar neck over time.

Read on to learn more about Drop C tuning in the guitar, what it is, and how to tune your guitar this way.

Drop C Tuning – What Is It?

Drop C Tuning

A Different Method to Tune a Guitar

Drop C tuning is a different method to tune a guitar. In this method, you need to have at least one of the strings lowered to a C. In the usual way of tuning, the strings are tuned from the lowest to the highest, e.g., E-A-G-D-B-E.

Use Heavier Strings

You will not ruin your guitar if you use Drop C tuning to tune it. But if you want to keep your guitar tuned in this way, you have to use heavier strings. You also have to adjust the setting of the guitar’s truss rod.

Will it be good to keep your guitar tuned to Drop C in the long run? It will depend on the strength of the guitar neck. Remember, you will be using heavier strings, and you have to adjust the truss rod. While you may be using heavier strings with Drop C, the string tension will not increase. It may even drop slightly.

Tuning to Drop C Means Adjusting a Guitar to D Standard

When you tune your guitar to Drop C, you are adjusting it to D standard. It will have the lowest string lowered by another two-half step. Drop C tuning is essentially similar to Drop D but is only two-half steps lower.

Standard guitars (and bass guitars) are made to withstand the tension of all the strings under the standard tuning of E-A-G-D-B-E. The string tension in guitars with drop tunings is relatively lower. So, if you switch from standard to drop C, your guitar will not be damaged just as long as it is well-made.

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Why Tune to Drop C?

Lower Notes Than What You Can Get from Standard Tuning

As I have already mentioned, if you tune your guitar to Drop C, you can get lower notes than what you can get from the standard tuning. Some even say that you can get two whole steps lower on the guitar’s range.

So, if you play the guitar with drop C tuning, you can go lower than the usual range and play your guitar chords in a new way. You will be able to shift the guitar chords lower so that you can better complement a lower-voiced singer or an instrument with low registers.

Heavily Used in Hard Rock and Metal Music Genre

Drop C tuning your guitar will open up new possibilities in your guitar playing. This tuning method is heavily used in the hard rock and metal music genre because it can add additional low notes to the guitar range.

It is also handy for guitarists who accompany lower-voiced singers. Drop C is quite easy to master. It will also enable you to play power chords with just one finger. You can also lower the pitch of a song very conveniently.

A Drop C Tuned Guitar Produces Heavier Sound

A guitar that drops C tuned will produce a much heavier sound than a guitar with standard tuning. That is why drop C tuning is preferred by rock and heavy metal bands. The drop C tuning produces real heavy sounds because the guitar gains extra lower notes.

Power Chords Sound Better in Drop C

Power chords sound better in drop C, and they are also much easier to play. Some say you can play even with just one finger. Most, however, can be played with two.

In standard tuning, you can play a power chord with two or three fingers. But in drop C, just by barring a finger over the three lowest strings, you can play a power chord. But be sure not to touch the remaining three strings above them.

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More on Drop C Tuning

drop c tuning guitar

This tuning style was called drop C because you need to drop or lower the pitch of the E strings (which is the topmost and the bottommost strings on your guitar) down to the pitch of C. Then, you lower the pitches of the other remaining strings correspondingly.

Difference Between Drop C Tuning and Drop D Tuning

It is different from drop D tuning. In drop D tuning, you only need to lower one string, but you cannot alter the pitches of the other remaining strings. Drop C tuning requires you to change the lower pitches of all six strings.

You have to decrease the tension of the strings to lower their pitches. So, you will notice that the dropped strings will buzz if you do it for the first time. It is natural because the strings will have slackened their tensions and become looser than before in standard tuning.

Invest in Heavier Strings

So, if you want a particular guitar to have drop C tuning, you have to think of investing in heavier strings. Or you may take your guitar to a luthier so that they can adjust the truss rod or make the necessary adjustments so your guitar can remain tuned to drop C forever.

When your guitar is tuned to drop C, its lowest or thinnest string will be tuned down two whole steps to C. All the remaining five strings will be tuned down one whole step.

Guitar After Drop C Tuning

To illustrate, the tuning of drop C will look like this from the top string to the bottom string:

  • C
  • G
  • C
  • F
  • A
  • D

Guitar with Standard Tuning

In contrast, a guitar with a standard tuning will look like this from the top string to the bottom string:

  • E
  • A
  • D
  • G
  • B
  • E

Again, what is drop C tuning? Drop C tuning method is an alternative method requiring you to drop at least one string to C. This method is not bad for your guitar. However, if you choose this tuning method, you’ll need to adjust your trust rod setting plus use heavier strings.

How to Tune Your Guitar to Drop C

drop c tuning chords

Before tuning your guitar to drop C, you should consider using guitar strings of heavier gauges. You will be loosening the tension of the strings. So, if you will use the normal string gauges used in standard tuning, you will lose a lot of string tension required to produce quality guitar sounds.

You are advised to use guitar string gauges ranging from 0.11 to .012 or even higher. Note that the usual string gauges used in standard tuning range from 0.009 to 0.010. Try and experiment with thicker strings to get the right string gauges for your drop C tuned guitar.

Basically, in tuning your guitar strings to drop C, all the strings will be tuned down one whole step lower, except the 6th string, which should be tuned down two whole steps. So, here are the steps in drop C tuning of your guitar:

1. Start with Standard Tuning

Before you can lower the pitch of a guitar string, you must first have a starting point. So, you need to set your guitar in standard tuning, which is from top string to bottom string, just like this:

  • E
  • A
  • D
  • G
  • B
  • E

2. Adjust the Guitar to D Standard or Drop D Tuning

The easiest way to drop C tuning is by tuning the guitar to drop D first. You will tune down the guitar strings one whole step from standard tuning. It will look like this from the lowest string to the highest string:

  • D
  • G
  • C
  • F
  • A
  • D

3. Tune the Guitar to Drop C

Now your guitar strings are ready to be tuned to drop C. You will only tune down the highest string on pitch D and get it one whole step lower to pitch C. It will look like this from the lowest string to the highest string:

  • D
  • G
  • C
  • F
  • A
  • C

If you have followed these instructions carefully, you now have drop C tuned your guitar.

Another way of describing the process of tuning your guitar to drop C is like this: tune all the strings on your guitar one whole tone lower, except the 6th string. You should tune the 6th string two whole steps lower.

A Trick to Drop C Tune Your Guitar

After tuning the first five strings to drop C, pluck the third string from the top, which should be a C by now. Then, lower the 6th string gradually until it matches the pitch of the third string. The third string is on C, and the 6th string should be its octave, which should also be a C.

Drop C Tuning Using a Chromatic Tuner

You can also use a chromatic tuner to drop C tune your guitar. This tool is a relatively inexpensive tool that you should have if you love to play the guitar. Here is how you can do it with a chromatic tuner:

  1. Tune the topmost string to D
  2. Tune the second string to G
  3. Adjust the third string to C
  4. Tune the fourth string to F
  5. Adjust the fifth string to A
  6. Tune the sixth string to C

Songs You Can Play After Drop C Tuning Your Guitar

If you want to play your guitar like metal or hard rock band member, you should be informed about drop C tuning. It is the guitar tuning used by hot rock and heavy metal bands, including:

  • Black Sabbath,
  • Killswitch Engage,
  • Electric Wizard,
  • Kyuss,
  • Bring Me The Horizon, and
  • Bullet.

You’ll hear the guitarist creating a heavy mood in the “Happy Song” by Bring Me The Horizon. The guitarist kept on droning on the low C string throughout the song. Drop C tuning was also used to produce a remarkable effect in the song “My Curse” by Killswitch Engage. This song uses the open low C string to give it a dark and extra-low sound.

Tips When Playing Chords in a Guitar with Drop C Tuning

Here are some fundamental concepts you need to remember when playing chords in a guitar with drop C tuning:

  • All chord shapes that don’t require the 6th string are treated the same way. However, they will sound lower by one whole tone than if they are in standard guitar tuning; and
  • All chords are the same as in drop D tuning, but they are lower by just one whole tone. So, if you are already used to drop D tuned guitar, it will be easier to play chords on a drop C tuned guitar.

Conclusion: Drop C Tuning

Drop C tuning is an alternative way to tune your guitar. In this tuning style, you need to have at least one string of your guitar lowered to a C. This way of tuning is not bad for your guitar. But if you plan to use it often or keep the guitar tuned this way, you should use strings with heavier gauges. You should also adjust the setting of the guitar’s truss rod.

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